Murder By Numbers (Switch): COMPLETED!

One of my favourite types of game is picross. There’s something relaxing about switching to autopilot and completing a load of puzzles. One of the best, quirky game series of all time is Phoenix Wright, with it’s gentle humour, amazing characters, and murders. Murder By Numbers is both these things.

I talk about it a lot on episode 33 of the ugvm Podcast, but briefly, Murder By Numbers is very much like Phoenix Wright only each time you find a clue you have to reveal it by solving a picross puzzle. Oh, and there’s no courtroom.

It has a great cast of well drawn characters with some funny dialogue, excellent music, and importantly the flow between detective sections and picross sections somehow never seems jarring. It’s also surprisingly long, especially with all the bonus puzzles you can unlock if you do all the ones in the story without using any hints.

If you even only slightly enjoy picross puzzles, this is a great game for you.

What Remains of Edith Finch (Switch): COMPLETED!

It’s two years since I played this on the PS4, and having picked it up for just One United States Pound for the Switch, I thought it was high time I played it again.

Most of the story I’d remembered, but the detail I’d forgotten. There was a lot of “oh yeah! I remember that!” while I played. And it’s still good, there are still great toilets, and it’s still the same game it always was.

What I did expect was a graphical downgrade, especially since I played it handheld. And it appeared that was what I got – it just wasn’t as impressive as I remembered. What I didn’t expect was for this to be mostly faulty memory! I’d taken screenshots of the PS4 game at the time and comparing these to what I’ve just played, there’s very little in it. In fact, the only really difference was that on the Switch, everything was just a bit too dark, even with the game’s brightness setting up full. Maybe that was intentional for performance reasons (although bright scenes were still bright, so probably not), or perhaps it’s because it was in handheld mode, who knows.

Oh, and somehow I totally missed Gus’ story so had to replay that bit at the end. I didn’t even realise that was possible!

Baobab’s Mausoleum Episode 2: 1313 Barnabas Dead End Drive (Switch): COMPLETED!

Now this is better. Unlike the linear, disjointed approach of the first game, Episode 2 of Baobab’s Mausoleum works much better. You have a whole town to explore, and a day/night cycle (real-time, or skip by sleeping) to contend with. There are still TV and game references, and it’s still very weird, but it makes – in the context of the weird – much more sense.

A girl goes missing and you have to find her. Only to do that, you have to do something else. Only to do that, you have to do something else. And so on.

Imagine a more passive Link’s Awakening (which is referenced), with very little combat but lots of talking and some puzzles and lots of getting item A to get item B. And some fishing.

It’s very shallow (which I don’t mean in a negative way), funny in an absurdist sense, and a lot better than Episode 1.

Baobab’s Mausoleum Episode 1: Ovnifagos Don’t Eat Flamingos (Switch): COMPLETED!

A while back, I played the demo of this. Although short, it looked like it the full game was going to be a viewed from above puzzle adventure game with Twin Peaks overtones. And, when it came to playing the full game, for a while that was the case. Your basic zombie-lookin aubergine FBI agent’s car breaks down outside a mysterious town that only appears once every 25 years, and he needs to find a phone and get on his way.

Only that premise is discarded very early on as the plot veers all over the place. Characters you know are somehow also in the town. Nobody mentions the 25 year thing. You have to play hide and seek with beavers in a first person section for… some reason. A guy in a cinema gives you a ticket so you can get into the cinema in order to get a ticket to give to the guy so he can get in the cinema. What? Sometimes you turn into a guy who is a tiny moon for a bit, but it’s not explained why. Frankly, nothing makes sense.

I’m all for weird for the sake of weird, but at least string it together. BME1ODEF is missing what fellow weird games Weird Dreams on the Amiga and Switch on the MegaCD had – a coherence to the random madness. Perhaps some of the cause of this was the translation to English from what I assume is the dev’s native Spanish, and some explanation was lost.

I don’t think I enjoyed playing it and I think that’s because I wasn’t sure why I was playing it. There’s no mechanical or gameplay reason why it’s bad, and it isn’t bad really, it’s just too strange. That said, I’m going to play the sequel as I’ve already bought it.

Isoland 2 (Switch): COMPLETED!

Well, there was no way I could not play the sequel after the first game, was there? Especially since they’re both so cheap!

Isoland is, as expected, more of the same. A different island to the first game, but the story is linked. The main difference here, though, is there’s a time-travel element which affects some of the puzzles.

A Clue

Other than that, it’s the usual Cottongame point and click stuff with tile-slidey/combination-findy puzzle elements. Also like the first game, you have to complete this twice, with extra and altered puzzles the second time, in order to get the true ending.

Hoping Isoland 3 comes Switchward now!

Batman: The Telltale Series (Switch): COMPLETED!

Warning: this post contains spoilers.

I don’t often write with spoilers but some of the things I wanted to mention are very spoilers and so I don’t really have much choice. But firstly, I just want to say that I have this game on the PS4 as part of PS+, but I bought it on the Switch anyway because who plays PS4 games in 2020?

So it’s yet another Batman game. This one exists in its own, somewhat different DC Universe, where there are no superheroes or supervillains (yet) – just normal folk with science and gadgets. The plot is that someone called Lady Arkham is planning to poison Gotham to “fix it”, and it also tells the story of Harvey Dent (who hasn’t become Two-Face yet) running for mayor whilst being supported financially by best mate Bruce Wayne.

Also mates with Bruce is Oswald Cobblepot, who, yes, becomes the Penguin, but he’s like no Penguin I’ve ever seen. He has the British accent but he’s tall, young and thin.

And then there’s Catwoman, who clocks that Bruce is Batman within seconds, and Bruce is remarkably relaxed about it (before bedding her, of course).

Unlike previous Telltale games I’ve played, there’s very little graphical adventuring here. It’s a make-dialogue-choices and QTE game, which made me worry at first because the horror that was Heavy Rain still lingers in my mind. Luckily, it is a much better game than that in almost every conceivable way – better story, better game logic, lack of nonsensical situations, and no stupid twist. But I’ve said enough about Heavy Rain before and I don’t wish to get that angry again. Still, it not being what I’d consider a “Telltale adventure” any more was a bit disappointing. There are some investigation sections which are close, but they’re too simple and shallow to be puzzles.

Being a fair weather Batman fan, some parts of the story didn’t sit that well with me. I didn’t like Selina and Bruce’s instant recognition. I wasn’t a fan of how you could be a very, very violet Batman (it seems you could kill and let people die) even though that was player choice – it isn’t a choice Batman makes. I hated who Lady Arkham turned out to be even though I saw it coming from a mile away. I also thought the back story about Bruce’s parents being bad guys was rubbish. But, in the context of it all being an alternate-universe Batman tale, I could work through all that.

I did enjoy it though. There were no real plot surprises, and some of the QTEs didn’t really work, but it was well worth playing. I’ve the second series lined up ready to go now too, so will no doubt play that as well.

Adventures of Bertram Fiddle 2: A Bleaker Predicklement (Switch): COMPLETED!

This was the funniest game I’ve played in ages. I’m a sucker for terrible puns and Bertram Fiddle is filled to the brim with them. More so here than the first game too, I’d say. It was better than the first game in other ways as well, being both longer and more varied with locations, and having some better puzzles.

The characters you meet are excellent, and the voice acting is perfect. There’s even a cameo from Professor Elemental, who is absolutely the right fit for the game.

Only issue now, is there is not – as yet – an Episode 3. Thankfully, the story in the first two games is finished so it didn’t end on a cliffhanger or anything.

Isoland (Switch): COMPLETED!

Ages ago, I played a graphical adventure game called Mr Pumpkin Adventure. It was good, but very, very bizarre. Isoland is by the same guy and is also very bizarre, although perhaps not quite so much.

You begin on an island, and although it seems your job might be to figure out where everyone has gone, in fact you mainly just discover the presence of aliens, and find clues and items to crack codes to open areas or activate things.

Like Mr Pumpkin Adventure, it’s pretty short – but once you complete Isoland you don’t get the full story, and have to run through it again in what is essentially hard mode, with more puzzles. It’s a nice little game.

Knights and Bikes (Switch): COMPLETED!

I wanna ride my bike

I was already sold when I saw the original trailer videos, but I didn’t really know what sort of game I was going to be getting. Luckily then, Knights and Bikes turned out to be the sort of game I wanted to play.

It followed two girls, Demelza and new-found friend Nessa as they explore the island where Demelza lives. A tourist-funded place, which draws holidaymakers in with its legends of knights and hidden treasure, but is currently out of season and financially, things haven’t been going well for Demelza’s caravan park owning dad.

The girls decide they can save the day if they find the island’s ancient treasure, and set off on a pretend quest, Demelza’s imagination bringing the anamatronic minigolf hazards “to life”. But it is all pretend. Until it slowly becomes more and more real. There’s a real curse, and real danger and so surely, a real treasure?

The gameplay of Knights and Bikes reminds me a lot of the Lego games. There’s no Lego building, and nowhere near as many characters and abilities, but there are similar sorts of puzzles and boss fights. Graphically, it’s similar to a cross between Tearaway (and this is probably due to having some of the same dev team) and Little Inferno, but the feeling of the game is definitely along the lines of the films The Goonies and Stand By Me. Kids on an adventure, doing stuff a bit naughty, things not quite going to plan.

Objects in the real world have these drawing overlays to show what Demelza’s imagination is perceiving them as.

There’s a great cast of characters you meet along the way, lots of 1980s references, and a fantastic punk theme song, and some great attention to detail – the girls make aeroplane noises as they run around, for example, high-fiving ToeJam and Earl style to recover health, and the facial expressions are wonderfully, well, expressive. And all the pointless cosmetic changes you can do to your bikes which changes nothing in terms of the gameplay or story but is absolutely what you want to be able to do anyway.

And then there’s Captain Honkers. One of Demelza’s geese, he follows you everywhere, has a nose for finding where you need to go, and constantly needs feeding or petting. He’s the second best goose in games.

Yes, I made the letters spell BUM.

It’s all great, but perhaps the best thing about the game is you can play it all in co-op. In fact, single player mode (which I didn’t play) would seem to be a hindrance to the fun as it’d require more character swapping. Again, like the Lego games, two player should be the way to go if you can.

Melbits World (Switch): COMPLETED!

Bought on a whim because it was $1 as a download voucher from Target a while back, I really wasn’t sure what sort of game this was. From videos, it seemed to be much like Captain Toad, but in fact it’s just the graphical style and isometric view that it shares with that.

What it actually is, is something closer to old Game and Watch titles like Mario’s Cement Factory, crossed with Lemmings, only in multiplayer and 3D. You have to activate or move blocks, conveyor belts, lifts and springs in order to get as many of your four Melbits creatures to the exit, making sure they don’t fall off the world or get killed by the wandering baddies.

We played in three player mode, so on each level each of us was responsible for a number of these objects, making co-operation something of a task. It felt a bit like Overcooked, only with more important timing.

It’s pretty short, at just three worlds with nine levels in each, but it was fun while it lastest. And yeah, it was a dollar.

Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 (Switch): COMPLETED!

And that’s the pair of them. I’d never played this sequel before, but it turned out to be just as good as the first game. There have been a few quality of life tweaks, such as not needing to choose which challenges to do before you do them – now they act more like normal achievements – and some of the upgrades upgrade themselves as you use them, rather than need improved versions synthesising.

The gameplay is the same as before, although it felt a lot easier. Perhaps that’s partly down to me using “prevasion” (a shield-like technique) properly for the duration this time, instead of just at the end like I did before. Graphically, it’s a little better too, with big improvements on the interstitial screens which look like they had higher resolution art to work from rather than just upscale the 3DS original images.

There’s still a lot of chat.

The big change though, is that there’s a whole second story to play through with a different character with his own set of skills. Copen, one of the characters from Gunvolt 1 (and called Akira by the Japanese voice actors!) is out to take down the bad guys and Gunvolt (who although good, is an “adept” like the baddies, and Copen/Akira wants to kill them all), as well as rescue his sister. He has a laser not a gun, which can constantly fire, and instead of tagging baddies with his shots like Gunvolt does, he has to tag them by dashing into them. He also collects special weapons from each boss, each of which is especially good against one other boss – so actually, Copen plays a lot more like Mega Man.

This guy talks in memes and emoticons a lot.

Copen’s levels aren’t all the same as Gunvolt’s either. It reminded me of playing Sonic 3 & Knuckles as Knuckles, because you cross paths with Gunvolt (rather than Sonic), have mostly the same bosses but have to defeat them in a different way, have some totally different levels, and have some levels that are the same but you take a different route through.

Anyway, I’ve completed the game as Gunvolt, but can’t get the “true ending” until I’ve beaten it with Copen, it seems, and I’ve not got very far in with him yet.

Bury Me My Love (Switch): COMPLETED!

Bury Me My Love is an interactive story, told through the medium of phone text messages, about a Syrian refugee called Nour trying to reach somewhere safe in Europe. You’re her husband, Majd, and you have to offer advice and support as she gets turned away from transport, borders and hotels, followed, trapped in refugee camps, left with nowhere to sleep, and potentially killed on the way.

It’s based on real life experiences, and it’s a powerful story. Along the way, Nour was harrased by neo-Nazis in Greece, nearly got blown up by landmines, narrowly avoided being injured by teargas in a camp, and witnessed a number of deaths of her fellow refugees.

There are a number of endings (I don’t know how many, but I expect it’s a fair few) based on your decisions. Mine ended up with her being arrested in Zagreb for trying to turn in some ID papers she’d stolen on the spur of the moment but I’d convinced her to drop off at a police station.

The rabbit came from a child who didn’t make a border crossing…

Azure Striker Gunvolt (Switch): COMPLETED!

Not that long ago (FIVE YEARS?! WHAT) I played, enjoyed and beat the 3DS version of this. I purposefully didn’t look back at what I wrote back then until just before writing this, and a few things surprised me.

Firstly, I never did get the good ending last time. This time, I did! Secondly, I had difficulties in all different places this time. For example, the “fire boss” was a walkover before, but he was one of the difficult ones this time. The final (for the bad ending) boss was much harder than I remember too. Some of these issues might be because I don’t think I knew about Gunvolt’s Prevasion skill last time around. It lets you use your shield power bar instead of your energy bar for attacks, essentially making you invincible so long as you don’t use your flashfield.

Maximum Spider.

The transition to the Switch is a double-edged one. Yes, it’s great to have it on there, and in the twin pack with the sequel (which I’d previously never played) is a bonus too. But, the graphics – when blown up to what, eight times the resolution – aren’t quite so good looking. Not having the touch screen trigger for special attacks is a pain too, as instead they’re activated with a direction of the right stick and I frequently pushed up instead of left by mistake! But these are minor things really as the game is still fantastic.

Getting the good ending meant beating an extra boss, who wasn’t too difficult once I’d figured out how. And with it done, I can move on to Azure Striker Gunvolt 2!

Level 50 and a Good Ending clear save!

Whipseey and the Lost Atlas (Switch): COMPLETED!

With a passing glance, Whipseey looks an awful lot like a Kirby game. In fact, even holding your eye for a time, it still looks an awful lot like a Kirby game. It also sounds not dissimilar to a Kirby game. But it is not a clone of a Kirby game.

In fact, it plays a bit more like the old Castlevania games, albeit with cute Kirby/not Kirby graphics and music. This is due to your main character, who has been turned into Not Kirby, having a whip with which to both attack and swing on. No sucking.

Whip it. Whip it good.

There are just five short levels, although they each have a number of areas and a variety of increasingly difficult to deal with challenges, with a boss before you move on to the next. It’s barely an hour long, but it isn’t a walkover, as you only have five lives and if you lose them, you have to start the whole level again. Getting to the boss only to die and have to restart the level is a very 1980s way of gaming, but managing to get to the boss without dying at all gives you a nice wave of achievement.

Aside from the shortness, the only other real issue is the collision detection can be somewhat suspect, especially when it comes to one-hit-kill spikes. Just give them a wider than you need berth and they’re not so bad.

These spikes make this one of the trickier screens, not least because of the collision detection.

On the Switch, Whipseey and the Lost Atlas is normally about a fiver which, for the length and lack of replayability (once it’s done it’s done) is a little steep. However, it’s half that at the moment and it’s cute and fun enough to warrant a purchase at that price.

Mom Hid My Game! (Switch): COMPLETED!

Despite the hideous title, I’d seen this on the eShop frequently and thought it was silly enough to buy when I saw it cheap enough. And then it was cheap enough, so, well, here we are.

It’s a hidden object game, only there’s only really one hidden object on each level – your Generic Handheld Gaming Device – which your mum has placed somewhere. You can rarely just pick it up, though, as there are things to avoid clicking on (otherwise you hurt yourself or your mum catches you) and puzzles to solve to get there. It’s not really taxing, but it is very, very silly.

In this level, you have to distract your sister.